Galleries show work of ‘uncommon’ architects Mar 05 2013
Two exhibitions focus on the late architect Chung Gu-yon and multi-talented architect/artist Kim Paik-sun

With architecture more commonly associated with engineering than art, exhibitions devoted to architects are still rare.

But two exhibitions in Seoul focus on architects whose backgrounds as artists gave them a unique approach.

The exhibition at the National Museum of Contemporary Art, Korea sheds light on the life of Chung Gu-yon, who died of cancer in 2011.

The first public exhibition of the archives of Chung since his death features about 2,000 items including his sketches, journals and books that inspired him.

Most of the items on display consist of Chung’s sketches that capture the essence of the ideals of his architecture and 29 years of practice that strived to meet them.

The sketches show Chung’s endeavor as “a designer, not as a problem-solver, but someone who looks into people’s lives and organizes their lives” as he said in the recent documentary film on him, “Talking Architect.”

His drawings are not merely about building designs, but also the surrounding land and nature that modern architects often overlook.

When most Koreans during the 1980s and ’90s viewed houses as a means for investment, Chung reminded them of the original meaning of living in his designs ― including one for a rural community center, schools, funeral homes and children’s libraries.

Chung, who majored in craft and fine art at Seoul National University before studying architecture in Paris, also made his drawings works of art.

A 47-year-old artist and art director, Kim Paik-sun is also a successful architect whose background is in Oriental painting. Without a formal education in architecture, Kim established a reputation as an architect who creates Korean architectural landscapes.

The multi-talented architect has put together his diverse practices in architecture, photography and ink-and-wash paintings at his solo exhibition at Hakgojae Gallery.

Despite the different media, the underlying concept is in the simple yet sophisticated Korean ink-and-wash painting.

Kim started painting after becoming intrigued by an ink-and-wash painting printed on a calendar in his home, and received an art award when he was in high school. He went on to study painting in the Oriental painting department of Hongik University.

“My design is based on the way I viewed the world through Korean paintings. I continued doing ink-and-wash paintings, four plants (orchid, bamboo, chrysanthemum, and plum blossom) and landscape. That’s how I developed my way of seeing things,” said Kim at a recent press meeting at Hakgojae Gallery.

In his 15 years as an architect, Kim has designed several notable buildings in Seoul, such as the U.N. Village in Hannam-dong, a trendy bar in Cheongdam-dong called T-LOUND and the Korean Embassy in Denmark. He also did interior designs for the Ferrum Tower.

He made installations that blur the lines between art and architecture, including a wooden installation space that recreates the traditional Korean culinary culture in Gyeongbokgung Palace in 2010.

Asked what qualities make him a good architect and designer, he said: “I am not bound by any fields. Architecture, art and design are fields that are defined by society. What I keep in mind is how sincere I feel toward the work I do at the time,” Kim said.

“I want my architecture to have passion and care for life. It’s homes and buildings that most people spend a large portion of their life in, in the end,” Kim said.

The exhibition “Figurative Journal: Chung Gu-yon Archive” continues through Sept. 22 at the National Museum of Contemporary Art, Korea in Gwacheon, Gyeonggi Province. For more information, call (02) 2188-6114.

The Kim Paik-sun exhibition continues through March 17 at Hakgojae Gallery in Jongno, Seoul. For more information, call (02) 720-1524.

By Lee Woo-young

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